Virtual onboarding; welcoming new team members in the time of Covid-19

18 February 2021

Like many business functions, the process on onboarding new employees has been directly impacted by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Before, onboarding at Focus was unique because of the variety of the workforce, employees include everything from CPAs to Superintendents and took place in our corporate office and on active construction sites. Now, everything from training exercises, information meetings and team member introductions have to be managed, in many cases, without face-to-face contact and from and for a number of different work environments including virtual ones.

1. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Focus’ onboarding process was conducted in-person and included everything from info sessions to welcome lunches. Can you tell us a little bit more about the process and what made it unique?

Prior to the Pandemic, Focus’ Employee Onboarding was an extensive and unique process with the objective to orient new employees to four important aspects of the company which are crucial to employee success: Clarification, Connection, Compliance and Culture.

Clarification is all about ensuring that employees understand their role and responsibilities, collaboration between Human Resources and team managers is at the forefront of this step with the goal to create clear understanding of employee expectations for new hires and managers alike.

Typically, the Connection process involves a meet and greet with every existing employee and in-person activities to ensure employees establish vital interpersonal relationships and get a real sense of our organizational norms and values. Due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Connection step has been executed virtually in most cases. New employees are greeted by their teams and introduced to those in other departments who they will be interacting with consistently. Additionally, the rest of the Focus team will reach out to new employees with welcome messages and introductions – company wide.

Compliance is all about making sure we deliver on the goals we set at the beginning of the new employee relationship. Under this plan, employees received a full 90 days of on boarding with structured check-ins at different points in time where the employee and manager interacted often to assure our onboarding objectives are maintained. Employees also participate in “Entry Interviews” where they can voice feedback on their role and experience early on in their career.

Lastly, new employees also receive their very own Culture training led by CEO, Tim Anderson and the HR department. During this session, employees learn about our company mission statement, core values which together make-up our intentional culture. Also included in this training is an introduction to company-wide culture tools which we utilize to empower employees to voice concerns, work through potential conflicts and establish meaningful and trustworthy relationships with each other in an active learning environment.

2. How has the Focus onboarding process changed to address the health concerns of the pandemic and the variety of Focus work environments?

With our focus on the same four objectives, the onboarding process has shifted to assure incoming employees feel safe but are also aware of new Covid-19 protocols and screening processes well before they enter the work environment. This portion of the process gives employees the chance to ask questions, assess their own risk, and understand when and how to report any health concerns. By offering new employees a voluntary option to onboard virtually or in the physical work environment, we can manage these health concerns fairly, appropriately, and on an individual level. Offering work from home and asking employees to collaborate with their manager in order to create their own schedule is a way we can directly address the individual health concerns and give employees an opportunity to be a part of those decisions.

3. Focus’ culture emphasizes a sense of community that starts to develop during the onboarding process. Why is culture so important to Focus? How do you build a cultural foundation during the time of Covid-19?

Our culture is centered heavily around treating one another with respect. We intentionally promote a culture and train employees to be authentic and direct in their communication with one another. The importance of this intentional company culture results in more meaningful conversations and fosters strong relationships to create high performing teams.

Building a cultural foundation with an emphasis around honest relationships and direct communication is tough to get right. When you add the anomaly of a pandemic to the mix, the challenges of maintaining our culture goals are very real. Particularly, when an in-person work environment was essential to foster that culture. Virtually, it is harder to forge relationships and live the cultural experience when employees are not together. Our strategy during Covid-19 is admittedly a work in progress but we have to start somewhere and implementing more connection pieces. Providing the leadership with resources to teach and demonstrate these initiatives through one-on-one check ins are part of our strategy as well as bi-weekly all company virtual meetings where we share projects updates, company wins and individual achievements.

4. Are there any processes or systems that you had to develop as a result of Covid-19 that you will carry over to Focus onboarding when we are “back to normal”?

We have implemented an electronic onboarding process by utilizing technology and HRIS software. When we begin to see a shift back to some sense of normalcy, we will carryover the utilization of software for part of the on-boarding processes that are working well now. The use of such technology has shaped on-boarding to be a more consistent and efficient experience for every new employee. The hope here is no matter the position or work location, all employees

To learn more about the Focus team or to inquire about open positions reach out today.

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